Ben Thompson interviews Matt Mullenweg about Automattic’s distributed workforce. Ben and Matt are two of my favorite people on the web, so it’s delightful to hear them discuss this topic. The interview is behind Ben’s subscription paywall, so if you’re not already subscribed, you should!
People are surprised when I say this, but I think in-person is really key. And so we just flip it, so instead of saying you have to be an around your colleagues 48 weeks of the year and do whatever you want for a month, we say be wherever you want for 48 weeks out of the year and for three or four weeks a year we’re going to bring you together. And that might be once a year for the whole company, and then your individual team, which is probably five to 15 people, you’ll see them two or three times a year and you can build that trust. There’s nothing, no technology, VR or otherwise, that has the same effect of breaking bread across the table or sharing a drink with someone, for building trust, for building communication, for getting to know someone.
Working remotely in a distributed company shouldn’t replace all face-to-face communication and interaction. It’s just not the default.
I think that when you become a truly distributed company versus just trying to recreate your meetings and everything else you do online, you start to realize how much more valuable it is to move things to be asynchronous versus synchronous because that opens up a ton of flexibility, autonomy, and agency between all of your colleagues.
Bingo. Synchronous communication (where everyone must stop and do something at the same time) is my number one productivity killer.